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I Learned How to Throw a Mean Uppercut From Boxer Montana Love

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I WAS ADJUSTING my headgear and preparing to step into the ring when I thought to myself: What am I getting into?

I was face-to-face with Montana Love, a pro boxer, without having so much as logged a minute with any fighter near my own level of experience (technically, none). And Love isn’t just any boxer, either; he’s 18-0-1 with nine knockouts, with a major headlining bout with Australian fighter Stevie Spark for the IBF North American Super Lightweight Title coming up. We were in the Cleveland, Ohio metro area at Revolution Fight and Fitness, Love’s home gym. The big fight will be at the Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse, the same arena where the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers play their home games. It’s a homecoming party for Love, and his first headlining fight in his hometown. This training session is one for me, too—I grew up in the Cleveland area myself, and lived for a time just a short 10 minute walk from the arena.

I was home visiting from my current base in New York City to learn from Love as part of my quest to gain new combat skills from the best fighters in the world. I grew up playing football and progressed through to the pro ranks in Europe before retiring, and began martial arts training in sports like Muay Thai a few years ago to have a chance to scratch that contact itch and compete again. Now, I’m ready to level up my skills and broaden my base of knowledge with help from pros like Love (who is promoted by Matchroom Boxing, a major organization that includes other top fighters like Canelo Alvarez on its roster)—and share what I learn with everyone watching at home, too.

Our shared home city wasn’t going to give Love any reason to go easy on me in the ring. He was giving me a crash-course lesson on one of his favorite punches, the left uppercut (for me, someone who uses an orthodox, or right-handed, stance, the right uppercut). “It’s about the element of surprise,” Love told me when I asked why he picked the left up for his highlight move. “It’s a shot they don’t see. You set it up off the jab. It’s a movement and then—bam! Out they go.”

We walked through a quick progression to bring me up to speed, working through learning the skill, applying it in a drill, and then putting it to the test in a sparring match.

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Matchroom

Montana Love’s Devastating Uppercut

The Skill – The Right Uppercut

Love walked me though the proper stance, making sure that my feet were in the right place. I’m used to a Muay Thai stance, which is designed to both defend and throw kicks, so I needed to loosen up. He had my front foot at 90 degrees, back foot at 45, with my weight on the ball of my foot. We worked through a left jab, which he uses to set up the more powerful punch, using a mirror to check my stance. Then we moved straight to a right uppercut. Love’s biggest tip: don’t wind up your arm so your opponent won’t see what’s coming.

The Drill – Mitt Work

I was hyped when Love tied me into his “Too Pretty” gloves himself—he’s a calculated dude in person, but he’s not afraid to flex on social media and with the press as part of his ring persona. Once the gloves were on, he put on pads to take me through the jab-uppercut combo. Our focus here was making sure that I brought the hips, but didn’t over-rotate. The sound of the pads popped through the empty gym, and I was feeling confident.

The Spar – 2 Minute Challenge

But then after Love fitted me with headgear, we were in the ring and I was in my head. I was tasked with trying to land a single uppercut. I knew that he wasn’t going to come at me hard—but there was still an intimidation factor in trying to move with someone at his caliber. The southpaw (left-hander in fight parlance) is fast and skilled, and I’m a boxing newbie. I was able to get close, but didn’t come close to hitting him. Still, I have a new skill, and I’m ready to add it to my own arsenal.

Check out Montana Love’s big fight from Cleveland’s Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on November 12.

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